Grace Bible Fellowship Submission to Citizens’ Assembly 11th December 2016.
In September 1983 Irish citizens voted to adopt the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, safeguarding the right to life of unborn children. The referendum on this amendment was passed by a majority of over 2:1.
It was a wise, caring decision to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and helpless in our society. And it has guarded the unborn from the fate of those in many countries where abortion has been introduced, and normalised. In the United States alone, over 55 million children have been aborted since 1973. And, even allowing for those that travel abroad to procure abortions, the termination rate of Irish pregnancies remains significantly lower than that in Great Britain – many young people alive in Ireland today owe their existence to the Eighth Amendment.
But what is abortion? What is this thing that many voices seem intent on introducing wholesale (for, once introduced, abortion always becomes normal and widespread) despite the testimony of decades of saved lives? The pro-choice movement consistently deflects debate on abortion away from the thing itself and focuses on the more abstract rights argument: women, they claim, must retain their bodily integrity even if this means the destruction of their own sons and (more often) daughters. In fact, abortion eliminates the possibility of a lifetime of choices for the unborn and violates their bodily integrity with the most hideous barbarity.
When considering abortion, therefore, we must acknowledge the following scientific and concrete facts and not allow abstract arguments to take priority. Firstly, the unborn child is a distinct person. He or she receives two sets of DNA from his or her parents, which sets are recombined to give them a unique genetic identity from conception. No embryologist will deny this. In addition, the child is verifiably alive, growing, with functioning complex organs, and demonstrating identifiable responses to trauma such as stress and pain.
So any honest definition of abortion must acknowledge it as the willful destruction of innocent human life, indeed of distinct, discrete lives that have as much right to existence as the parents that may seek their termination.
As Christians we marvel at how science and scripture agree on the extraordinary uniqueness of human life from its beginning in the womb. The Psalmist writes,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Psalm 139: 13-14)
The unborn are not simply an accidental bundle of cells or expendable sub-humans. Instead, they are wonderfully made in God’s image. When a society forgets this, it becomes both irrational – ignoring the testimony of science – and callous. As pressure mounts from those that regard the most vulnerable human lives as inconveniences to be disposed of as medical waste, we should remind ourselves of Jesus’ attitude to the children his disciples would have turned away: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”